Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Boat US Magazine article

We were honored to be recognized in a Boat US article this month on our boating adventure.

Looping With Little Ones

By Gary Kramer
Photos by Danielle and Craig Parrent
Published: August/September 2014
Tackling the Great Loop with three young kids turns out to be doable and rewarding for this family of five .
Besides education, safety was a crucial issue. The kids are all good swimmers, Danielle says, but "there wasn't a day they stepped out of the cabin without life jackets." The boat's bow was their front yard, so it was wrapped with safety netting, increasing Craig and Danielle's peace of mind. They coached the kids not to panic in an emergency, and established strict safety procedures. Clear, written instructions at the helm explained what to do if a parent fell overboard, how to make a VHF call, and how to stop and shut off the engines. On an overnight, 160-mile Gulf of Mexico crossing from Apalachicola to Clearwater, Florida, the kids slept in the main saloon so they would be close at hand if an emergency occurred. An unexpected safety boost came early in the morning, Craig remembers, when Morgan became "absolutely invaluable" with her fresh eyes helping spot crab pots.
Photo of travelling with tandem bikesTandem bicycles helped broaden their range in port.
Photo of young child bouncing on a trampoline
It was easy to get a little antsy, but the kids kept themselves amused.
"We did everything together, always," says Danielle, including laundry. They used grocery shopping as a rich source of hands-on learning. They used a dinghy and kayaks to explore places only accessible by water, and used tandem bicycles to venture beyond marinas and harbors. Danielle says the children really didn't develop bad attitudes or fight, but they did miss playing with other kids. The solution was to schedule weekend opportunities to interact with other children. Craig says that when the trip started, the kids weren't particularly outgoing. But as a result of the random interactions with other children, they quickly learned how to make friends and easily adapted to the weekly gatherings of home-schoolers in Marathon, Florida, where they spent a month.
The kids remember getting a little antsy on some long, slow cruising days. To counter that, Danielle and Craig worked to stay upbeat, organized, and focused, and learned that a positive attitude was contagious. Activity planning at family meetings helped smooth over differences of opinion about where they should go and what they should do. It also became a group function to help cheer up a family member who was a bit down or unhappy.
Photo of a exhausted little cruiserJaxon Parrent may be the youngest Looper to complete the whole circuit.
"It was the best trip," reflects Danielle. "We didn't have the day-to-day challenges that most people face with work commitments, mortgages, and keeping up a house, so we had time to focus on our family. The more time we spent with the kids, the more patience and understanding we had with them. They thrived."

Epilogue: On The Road Again

Three years have passed now, and Danielle says there are constant, ongoing reminders about their grand cruising adventure. "The kids have a never-ending source for writing assignments. In history class, they frequently bring personal photos to school of the site being studied. Our house is filled with their collections and mementos picked up along the way, each item connected to a place and time we fondly remember."
Looking back, the Parrents wish they'd taken more side trips, which they now realize were a treasured part of the cruising experience. They also wish they'd taken two years for the trip. "Oh, and we could've done it in a smaller boat," says Craig, "which would have saved significantly on fuel and slip rentals." In June, the Parrents take off again for a few years, on a road trip of sorts, headed first to Alaska. Craig has customized a 48-foot car hauler so the front part has a kitchen, bathroom, and separate sleeping spaces for all. The rear part holds bikes, ATVs, and a 13-foot Boston Whaler. The rig is self-contained. The kids will follow the state of Michigan online curriculum so when they do return to school, it should be seamless. For more of the daily details of their voyage, visit